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Tribes

Page history last edited by Michael J 13 years ago

From Wikipedia

the link

A Band Society is the simplest form of human society. A band generally consists of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan. Bands have very informal leadership; the older members of the band generally are looked to for guidance and advice, but there are no written laws and none of the coercion, e.g., police, seen typically in more complex societies. Bands' customs are almost always transmitted orally. Formal social institutions are few or non-existent. Religion is generally based on family tradition, individual experience, or counsel from a shaman. All known band societies hunt and gather to obtain their food. (See Subsistence)

In his 1972 study, The Notion of the Tribe, Morton Fried defined bands as small, mobile, and fluid social formations with weak leadership that do not generate surpluses, pay no taxes and support no standing army.

Bands are distinguished from tribes in that tribes are generally larger, consisting of many families. Tribes have more social institutions, such as a chief, big man, or elders. Tribes are also more permanent than bands; a band can cease to exist if only a small group walks out. Many tribes are in fact sub-divided into bands; in the United States, some tribes are made up of official bands that live in specific locations.

With the spread of the modern nation-state to all corners of the globe, there are very few true band societies left. Some historic examples include the Inuit of northern North America, the Shoshone of the Great Basin, the Bushmen of southern Africa, and some groups of Indigenous Australians.

The following purports to be useful bullshit.

For me, something is bullshit until you've seen it work.

Metaphors "work" on a symbolic level, when the seem to accurately capture a part of reality. As the experience of manipulating the symbols continues, if you are lucky they start to become theories. In my story as metaphors start to be woven into a stories they move to becoming theories. They allow the creation of statements that are amenable to be tested in their abiity to predict what is going to happen. After statements have demonstrated their predictive usefullness over a period of time - by independent practitioners using the same narrative they move towards becoming a theory. When theories start to generate statements that can be DISPROVED.. they move closer to becoming a scientific language.

In my professional work as what I'm calling Communication Process Management, I work to help create more sustainable and effective communcation processes.

I've found that in most formal organizations - as distinct from 3 or 4 person team projects - there exists relationships between people who exercise power in the organization. It's a pretty commonplace understanding that even global corporations are actually led by anywhere between 25 and 100 people who set the rules and focus the underlying activities of people in the organization. In the formal organizations - they set budgets, incentives and the rules of the game. But power is exercised in informal conversations. It is the conversations, understandings and common goals of this group that most affects the results the organization acheives in their action with externalities.

Capturing this real world activity in a symbolic form has been difficult. To the extent that it is difficult, it is less amenable to symbolic manipulation. To the extent that it is not amenable to symbolic manipulation it's much harder to have a reasonable prediction of the effects of changes. While there is never a reasonable substitute for trial and error, without the ability to correctly "imagine" what is going to happen, it's much too time consuming and does not lead to improvement.

Perhaps a tribe is a useful metaphor. The next step is to study what connected metaphors go into capturing the complex reality of tribes and see if they correspond to the reality of formal organizations to weave them into a useful story, that may some day be incorporated into a science.

 

 

So what happens if it turns out that "nation state" is a word/concept that has outlived its usefullness to understand what is happening in the real world?

 

Also what happens if we stop using the "West", as the source of "capitalism" and "democracy" spreading it's message through out the world. And replace the word/concept of "western thought", with the "word/concept" of Euro thought. The argument is that the important differences are much less about America and Europe, than Euro and others... most notably the different groupings in Eurasia, but probably including others.

 

So, to move this discussion from bs to something else, we start with "tribes" - a Euro idea for studying the "other" in their groupings - mostly in the anthropology tradition. Then we take the articulated narratives and their metaphors to describe tribes, out of the context of the Euro view of progressive growth of wherver Europeans are going as the "highest state of man".

 

In this kind of story, the political problems of America, much more of acute in the recent Bush years, is that the Bush-Cheney-Big Energy tribe has captured the levers of power. They did this by getting the making alliances with parts of the evanglical tribe, to win elections. The method was the tried and true, use whatever works. Give the leaders of the tribe what they most wanted, and propogate actions that are consistent with world view of the members of the tribe.

 

The bad news for the tribes that live on ground in cities, suburbs and rural areas is that this has led to actions which are clearly dysfunctional from a "resilience to external change" point of view. The good news is that sooner or later, reality usually trumps bullshit...it's just a matter of time.

 

The really bad news on the ground is that time is the one thing that is in very, very short supply. Life goes on on natural rythms, not government rythms.. Changes have to be managed, children grow, people die, every minute of every day.

 

While the media and public discussion is that has something to do with "right" and "left", or "Democratic" or "Republican", maybe the real story is alot more complicated. Is there any sense that the Bush Tribe was "republican"? Or that the Howard Dean team is "democrat?"

 

This is plausible given the change in "party" structure" in America over the last period. The "smoke filled" rooms of chiefs choosing the next candidate are over. The age of entreprenuerial candidates happened in force as soon as it became possible for lots of folks to raise, spend and control money. The new political tribes are growing up around individuals and clans that can raise or control money and favors better than the other guy.

 

To follow the same metaphor it might be interesting to think about the Kennedy years as when the Boston-Harvard tribe controlled the state.

 

Maybe the retribalization of the world, so bemoaned by the tribes that control nation states is a merely a natural development.

 

There is argument elsewhere that the nation state is a metaphor that exploded throughout Europe especially after 1789 and the French revolution. As a metaphor it was very useful for the tribes that competed for control of them. In a world where it was expensive and relatively difficult to get and give information, this makes sense.

It is much easier with a Euro view to collect taxes, set up hierachical organizations if you have a state that everyone sees as reality.

 

But when useful information is available to bands that allows them to spread the ideas all over the globe - at a much.much lower cost. Is it still a useful way to describe what's really going on?

 

On the business side, it's probably always been true that a useful way to think about historical development is that tribes control organizations to maximize the protection and goals of the tribe. In the past years, the Euro perspective has used words like "capitalism", "socialism", "communism", "nationalism" , "power elites", "communities","networks" to try to capture reality. But although they seemed to be useful metaphors at the time, they missed a lot of what was really going on.

 

They are all nouns, describing things. But maybe the world can not be usefully described as a collection nouns. Maybe a more useful analytical metaphor would be nouns that more clearly imply a collection of verbs.

 

Einstein talked about the equivalence of energy and matter. Is that just another way of trying to capture the reality of verbs and nouns. Nouns describe what things are, verbs describe what things do. Is 'money" a thing, or is it more useful to think about it as "flow". I think, (but don't know), that economists have a body of metaphor that concentrates on the importance of velocity of transactions in the power of money to change the world.

 

So... to play this out just a little bit further...

The world exists. Stuff happens. But it's so complicated that humans can only get to approximate symbolic narratives that describe exaclty what is happening. These symbolic languages include words and numbers. And then there is another language of pictures and music. Words and numbers are completely symbolic and they have to be learned to be fluent.They are therefore accessible only to some tribes.

Pictures and music are physical as well as symbolic and so are accessible to all humans.

 

The more fluent in a language, the finer distinctions can be made. The great of advantage of symbolic languages is that once learned they can be manipulated, and recombined with very little physical effort. And as it develops from the richest, most natural communication - direct face to face contact and spoken language, capturing the converstaions in a form that can be practically shared, leads to the possibility of evaluating that's language ability to capture to reality. That's just a convoluted attempt to capture what happens in the scholarly tribes, or the "wise man" tribes and can be captured by words like "intellectual tradition", or "the literature".

 

It can be an important evolutionary advantage for a species competing for earth's resources. It's probably the human species primary advantage over the insects and the microbes.

 

The great advantage of visual and musical languages is their ability to describe and communicate in languages that have a relatively low learning curve. But it remains true, that the more fluency one has, the finer distinctions and the richer the communication becomes.

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